Canadian Beef Recall Expanded for 16th Time While USDA Plans to Eliminate Border Inspection
Statement from Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch
Washington, D.C. — “At the first presidential candidate debate in Denver at the beginning of the month, President Obama said, ‘the first role of the federal government is to keep the American people safe. That’s its most basic function.’
“Yes, Mr. President, we agree with you and we hope that you practice what you preach because the USDA is failing to protect American consumers from imported meat that is involved in a historic food safety scandal.
“The largest meat recall in Canadian history has been expanded for the sixteenth time since Sept. 16, 2012, and now USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is hunting down some 2.5 million pounds of meat potentially contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7 that has entered the U.S. from the same Canadian beef slaughtering facility. That is nearly triple the amount originally estimated by USDA.
“While the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has actually issued recall announcements, FSIS is still releasing vague ‘Public Health Alerts’ and only informing the public of changes when pressured by consumer advocates. With this historic recall and inadequate response from FSIS as a backdrop, it’s unconscionable that the Obama Administration is still moving ahead with plans to implement a pilot program that would eliminate some border inspection activities for meat products imported from Canada.
“The Canadian media has reported that 1.5 million pounds of beef products are subject to the recall in Canada. Originally, FSIS estimated that 890,000 pounds of potentially contaminated beef products had entered the U.S., but on Oct. 5, FSIS amended its September 28 ‘Public Health Alert’ to reflect that 1.1 million pounds of beef trimmings and 1.4 million pounds of primal and sub-primal cuts of beef were now subject to the ‘Public Health Alert’ – more than is being recalled in Canada.
“Yet, this important, potentially life-saving information was not disseminated to the media or public until Sunday, Oct. 7, after Food & Water Watch urged agency officials to issue a public statement on the change. When it finally issued a press release, the agency revealed that the number of retailers who received the contaminated product also expanded dramatically.
“We are left to believe that USDA’s unusual handling of the Canadian beef recall situation is related to the Obama Administration’s plans to deregulate meat inspection along the Canadian border. The Beyond the Border initiative calls for a pilot project to be implemented very shortly that would eliminate some border inspection functions for imported meat products from Canada. Food & Water Watch obtained an Oct. 3, 2012, draft of the pilot program that identifies a Canadian meat packer that will be permitted to ship product into the United States with virtually no inspection at the border. The current border inspection system was what first detected that there were problems at the XL Foods plant on September 3, 2012.
“We continue to urge the Obama Administration to abandon the plans to deregulate border inspection. Additionally, we urge the Obama Administration to review the equivalency determination with Canada because it is apparent Canada cannot be trusted to certify the safety of beef products it sends across the border.”
Draft of the Beyond the Border pilot program can be downloaded here: http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/BTB_Pilot_Import_Process_FSIS_100312.pdf
Previous media statements about the Canadian beef recall and the Beyond the Border Initiative can be found here:
Contact: Anna Ghosh, 415-265-1568, aghosh(at)fwwatch(dot)org